FIRE EMERGENCY: As it happened

CFA - EMERGENCY CONTACTS


AS fires ravaged the region last weekend the Stawell Times-News was there to provide people with up-to-date information and all the developments. Take a look at how it all unfolded.

SUNDAY 5.30PM: About 100 residents have attended a community meeting in Stawell where they were briefed on the two active fires in the region.

Emergency service representatives were on hand to answer questions from concerned residents and provide an update on the Grampians and Black Ranges fire.

A meeting has also been at Dadswell Bridge and another will follow at Halls Gap at 6pm. 

There will now also be a public meeting at the Pomonal Hall, Ararat-Pomonal Road at 10am Monday morning.


View Horsham to Ballarat in a larger map

2PM: Three public meetings are being held across the Northern Grampians Shire today, so council and emergency services can offer local updates to fire-affected residents.

A meeting has just got underway at Dadswells Bridge Hall, Dadswells Bridge.

Another meeting will be held at 4pm at the Stawell Health and Community Centre, followed by a final meeting at 6pm at the Parks Victoria Office in Halls Gap.

The Municipal Recovery Centre will open tomorrow to provide support to fire-affected local residents. 

The Centre will be open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Call in any time between these hours or phone (03) 5358 7599.

Halls Gap residents are reminded that drinking water is available for free at the Halls Gap Service Station.

The Halls Gap transfer station is closed today.

Business in the area are determined to return to normal with some already opening their doors.

9AM: The clean-up and recovery from the Grampians Northern Complex fire has begun with a number of communities and roads reopening.

Community meetings will be held at the Dadswell’s Bridge Hall at 2.00pm and the Mural Room Parks Victoria in Halls Gap at 6.00pm.

Incident Controller Andrew Morrow said while there are still some sections of the fire which are not yet under control, emergency services have been focussing on returning residents to their homes and opening major roads, where it is safe to do so.

“Overnight there has been some works occurring on the Western Highway to remove fallen trees and this morning we’re expecting to open this stretch of road from the intersection of Stawell-Warracknabeal Road to Horsham,” he said.

“There is still a lot of work to do in back burning and blacking out to ensure the fire is safe, but we also need to move in to the recovery stage so that the wider Grampians area can get back to operating as usual.”

Yesterday, the Horsham Incident Control Centre (ICC) also took over control from the Ararat ICC of the Bunjils Cave Road fire at Black Range, south-west of Stawell. 

Horsham ICC has also taken over from the Hamilton ICC for a number of fires in Southern Grampians which are now all contained or controlled.

“Late last night the Black Range bushfire took an unexpected turn and jumped containment lines, moving towards Stawell but the threat has now eased and we have an Advice message current for this fire. There is still a significant amount of work to do in establishing control lines and blacking out in some difficult terrain,” Mr Morrow said.

He added that all parts of the Grampians North Complex fire had been downgraded to an Advice message, but said firefighters are still conducting back burning operations at the southern end of the Mt Difficult Range near Halls Gap.

“Back burning works progressed well overnight and we’re hoping to take advantage of more favourable weather conditions over the next few days to complete these works,” Mr Morrow said.

Yesterday the community of Pomonal reopened while Halls Gap was opened to residents. 

Today it is expected Dadswell’s Bridge will reopen and Halls Gap will be open to the general public. 

The Grampians National Park will remain closed until noon tomorrow.

Residents and people visiting the Grampians can keep informed with the latest traffic information and road closures by visiting www.vicroads.vic.gov.au.

Residents should stay up-to-date with the latest warnings and advice via emergency.vic.gov.au, by downloading the FireReady smartphone application, through CFA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts or by phoning the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

SATURDAY 6.30PM: Several Watch and Act warnings remain in place across the region tonight.

The CFA has issued Watch and Act warnings for Grampians Junction and Halls Gap, Black Range and St Helen Plains, Dadswells Bridge.

For the very latest go to http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/warnings-and-incidents/.

The Emergency Relief Centre at the Stawell Leisure Centre, Houston Street, is still open due to the Watch and Act warning issued for the Black Ranges fire.

4PM: THE Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has toured areas devastated by this week's Grampians fire.

Speaking at the relief centre in Stawell Mr Napthine praised the efforts of the volunteers, firefighters and wider community for heeding the warnings and working tirelessly to defend lives and property.

Mr Napthine also pledged that the Victorian government will work with the Grampians as it faces the inevitable task of rebuilding itself as a tourist destination in the wake of the fires.

In other developments Department of Environment and Primary Industries and Country Fire Authority is advising road users and residents of the current situation with roads in and around the Northern Grampians fires.

Grampians Road and Western Highway to Stawell is open to traffic.

The Western Highway is still closed between the intersection of the Stawell-Warracknabeal Road and Horsham. 

It is expected this section of the Western Highway will open later today, pending advice from Victoria Police.

Grampians Tourist Road and Silverband Road within the Grampians National Park, next to Lake Bellfield is closed to general traffic. Emergency Services vehicles can access this area.

Pomonal Road and Burgh Street, Stawell is open to traffic.

Ararat-Halls Gap Road and Moyston Dunkeld Road, Moyston is open to traffic.

Pomonal township is now open for residents only, to return to their homes.

Halls Gap township will be open at 4pm today for residents to return to their homes.

Please continue to check the VicRoads website or call 13 11 70 for up to date information.

Road users are advised to take extra care as road travel may be hazardous due to low visibility from smoke.

Information is also online at cfa.vic.gov.auor www.depi.vic.gov.au.

10AM: Emergency services continued to work overnight on the Grampians Northern Complex fire which is still threatening the towns of Dadswell’s Bridge and Halls Gap.

A southerly wind change moved across the area from about 8.00pm and caused erratic fire behaviour for several hours.

Incident Controller Andrew Morrow said due to the strong winds, the fire spread in a northerly direction towards St Helen’s Plains, closing the Western Highway. 

“An Emergency Warning was issued to this area advising residents that spot fires and ember attacks were occurring. As of 5.00am we were able to contain this section of the fire,” he said.

“We advised that leaving at the time was the safest option as fire behaviour was extremely unpredictable and conditions were becoming increasingly dangerous.”

Mr Morrow praised the efforts of ground crews saying they did a fantastic job overnight and in to this morning in some testy conditions.

“But there is plenty of work still to be done in containing the fire and moving in to the recovery stage."

There have been reports of impacts on two properties near Dadswell’s Bridge.

“This morning in daylight hours we will be able to get a better assessment of what has occurred overnight and what needs to be done over the next few days,” Mr Morrow said.

He said this would include reopening roads, particularly the Western Highway and the Henty Highway. 

Residents and visitors to the area can keep up-to-date with the latest on road closures at www.vicroads.vic.gov.au. Rail services are also planned to resume.

“A focus will also be on clearing any tree hazards, however residents need to be aware that this remains a danger after any fire,” Mr Morrow said.

“Today we’ll also look where we can return those who have evacuated to their homes.”

Residents should stay up-to-date with the latest warnings and advice by downloading the FireReady smartphone application, through CFA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts or by phoning the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

“While the threat has eased in some areas, residents and visitors to the area need to be aware that the situation can change at any time and they need to be ready to act,” Mr Morrow said.

Emergency warnings remain in place. For the very latest, please go to http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/ 

FRIDAY 6PM: Fire in the Black Range area, approximately 6kms south of Stawell has caused smoke to be visible in the Stawell area. There is no threat to communities. 

More than 200 people are believed to have registered at a relief centre in operation at the Stawell Leisure Complex in Houston Street.

A relief centre has also been established at the Horsham Senior Citizens Centre, Roberts Ave, Horsham.

4PM: The Country Fire Authority has upgraded its message for Black Range, Mokepilly and Rhymney to an Emergency Warning.

The Black Range bushfire is approximately 7km South of Stawell and is currently out of control. 

Firefighters have been unable to stop the fire. It is now travelling southerly from Black Range towards Mokepilly.

Residents are advised they are now in immediate danger and need to act now to protect themselves as Emergency Services may not be able to help them.

The Western Highway between Ballarat and Horsham has also been closed as fires rage out of control across the region.

3PM: Authorities are now warning people in the towns of Halls Gap, Pomonal, Bellfield, Lake Lonsdale and Lake Fyans that it is too late to leave their homes if they haven’t already done so.

Residents were advised at a community meeting this morning they had until 3pm to seek refuge as the fire headed their way.

A forecast wind change was expected to turn the fire in the direction of the township.

The CFA has also upgraded its message to Watch and Act for a fire burning in the Black Range, south of Stawell.

The fire is travelling in a southerly direction.

 A westerly wind change is expected anytime which will cause the fire to head east.

Firefighting crews are on scene and working to contain the fire.

Meanwhile, Victoria police has confirmed a person has died as a result of the Grampians bushfire.

The fires have claimed the life of a person in Roses Gap.

The death is being treated as occurring as a result of the fires.

11AM: Local businesses in Halls Gap have been closed and Caravan Parks evacuated as the fire edged closer this morning.

Incident Control Centre Media Officer Tania Barnes had earlier urged people to evacuate.

"What we are trying to get through to people is that these aren't the same weather conditions as the Mt Lubra fire," she said.

 "Just because people were okay then, doesn't mean they will be okay now.

"We are asking people to treat this as an individual event because it is different, the conditions are different.”

The story FIRE EMERGENCY: As it happened first appeared on The Stawell Times-News.

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